Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 06/18/2019
Format: 06/18/2019
John Vergos v. Randall Swaney
W2018-01063-COA-R3-CV

A private citizen initiated a proceeding in Shelby County Environmental Court to remove a billboard; the environmental court denied the petition, and the citizen appealed to Circuit Court. That court held that the citizen did not have standing to initiate the action and granted summary judgment to the billboard’s owner. The citizen appeals, contending that he has standing. The undisputed facts show that the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Construction Code Enforcement issued a citation to the billboard’s owner indicating that the billboard violated the Uniform Development Code, and initiated a proceeding in Shelby County General Sessions Court against the billboard owner, which was dismissed and no appeal was taken. We conclude that the fact that a proceeding to remove the billboard was initiated by the City deprives the citizen of standing to enforce the pertinent provisions of the Code himself. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/17/19
William Michael Grissom v. Nicole Xiomara Grissom
W2018-01570-COA-R3-CV

The trial court designated Father primary residential parent of the parties’ minor child, and adopted Father’s proposed parenting plan. Mother appeals. Because we conclude that the trial court’s order regarding the designation of the child’s primary residential parent does not contain sufficient findings of fact such that meaningful appellate review is possible, we vacate the order of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.

Crockett County Court of Appeals 05/17/19
Ronald R. Lemonte, Jr. v. Elke Lemonte, Et Al.
M2018-02193-COA-R3-CV

The day before a hearing on a motion to dismiss for lack of prosecution was held, Plaintiff filed a notice of voluntary dismissal. Plaintiff did not appear at the hearing the following day. As such, the trial court granted the motion to dismiss and dismissed the case with prejudice. We reverse and remand for the entry of an order of dismissal without prejudice pursuant to Rule 41.01 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 05/17/19
Stephen Simpson Et Al. v. William B. Simpson
E2018-01686-COA-R3-CV

Siblings appeal the trial court’s refusal to set aside a deed conveying real property from their decedent father to their brother. The siblings also appeal the trial court’s denial of their post-trial motion to consider purported newly discovered evidence. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 05/17/19
Shane Maddox Bruce v. Carolyn Marsh Jackson Et Al.
E2018-01997-COA-R3-CV

The petitioner commenced this action in the Knox County Circuit Court (“trial court”), naming as respondents his mother, his brother, and a purported family trust. He alleged, inter alia, that his mother and brother had “brought about” the wrongful death of his father and had mishandled trust funds. Additionally, the petitioner requested “financial separation” from familial assets, a money judgment, and injunctive relief to freeze familial assets. Following a hearing, the trial court entered an order dismissing this action with prejudice upon finding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because all parties involved in the matter resided in Campbell County and all acts forming the basis for the petitioner’s claims had occurred in Campbell County. The petitioner has appealed. We determine that although the trial court correctly found that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction, the court erred by dismissing this action with prejudice. We further determine that, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 16-1-116 (2009), this matter should be transferred to the court wherein jurisdiction lies. We therefore vacate the portion of the trial court’s judgment dismissing the case with prejudice and remand for entry of an order transferring this action to the Campbell County Circuit Court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/17/19
Charles Stinson, Et Al. v. David E. Mensel, Et Al.
M2017-02497-COA-R3-CV

Charles Stinson and Glenda Stinson (“the Stinsons”) appeal the November 17, 2017 order of the Chancery Court for Hickman County (“the Trial Court”) expanding the injunctive relief granted in our Opinion in Stinson v. Mensel, No. M2016-00624-COA-R3-CV, 2017 WL 2972219 (Tenn. Ct. App. July 12, 2017), no appl. perm. appeal filed. We find and hold that the Trial Court lacked the authority to modify or revise the injunction entered by this Court in the first appeal of this case. We, therefore, vacate the portion of the Trial Court’s November 17, 2017 order modifying the injunction.

Hickman County Court of Appeals 05/17/19
State of Tennessee v. Telvin Toles
W2018-01175-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Telvin Toles, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of one count of felony murder. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on self-defense and voluntary manslaughter; that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction; that the trial court abused its discretion in ruling on the admissibility of certain photographs; that the trial court erred by allowing additional security officers to sit behind Defendant throughout the trial; that the trial court erred in overruling Defendant’s objections to certain questions asked by the State; and that the trial court erred in allowing expert testimony when the full ballistics report had not been produced during discovery. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/17/19
State of Tennessee v. Derius Pettis
W2017-02473-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Derius Pettis, of one count of attempted voluntary manslaughter, a Class D felony; one count of employing a firearm during the attempt to commit a dangerous felony, a Class C felony; one count of reckless aggravated assault, a Class D felony; and three counts reckless endangerment, a Class E felony. After a sentencing hearing, he received an effective twenty-year sentence. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions and that the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on duress and defense of a third person. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/17/19
Jennifer Ann Spergl v. Stephen Phillip Spergl
M2018-00934-COA-R3-CV


In this divorce action, Wife appeals the trial court’s action in classifying as Husband’s separate property the appreciation in value of shares of stock, arguing that the appreciation in value was marital property. Upon our review of the record, we conclude that the evidence does not show that Wife substantially contributed to the preservation and appreciation in value of the stock; accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 05/16/19
Ameenah House v. Amazon.Com, Inc.
E2017-02183-SC-R3-WC

An employee filed workers' compensation claims against her employer for alleged workrelated back and leg injuries. The Court of Workers' Compensation Claims (the trial court) ruled against the employee, finding that the employee failed to show that her alleged injuries were work-related. The Workers' Compensation Appeals Board affirmed the trial court's decision. The employee appealed. This appeal was referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. After careful consideration, we affirm the judgment of the Appeals Board and adopt its opinion as set forth in the attached Appendix.

Hamilton County Supreme Court 05/16/19
State of Tennessee v. Keith Lamont Brown aka "Kee Kee"
W2018-00731-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Keith Lamont Brown, appeals his conviction for the delivery of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine for which he received a sentence of twenty-five years as a persistent offender. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/19
Diane Drain Shackelford v. Jerry Robert Shackelford
M2018-01178-COA-R3-CV

In a case involving a long-term marriage, the trial court found that the husband performed most of the household duties and the wife earned most of the income. Moreover, the husband’s earning capacity was substantially less than that of the wife at the time of the divorce. The trial court denied the husband’s request for alimony, and the husband appealed. We conclude that the trial court erred in failing to award the husband alimony and reverse and remand that part of the trial court’s decision.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 05/16/19
Ameenah House v. Amazon.Com, Inc.
E2017-02183-SC-R3-WC

An employee filed workers’ compensation claims against her employer for alleged work-related back and leg injuries. The Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims (the trial court) ruled against the employee, finding that the employee failed to show that her alleged injuries were work-related. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board affirmed the trial court’s decision. The employee appealed. This appeal was referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. After careful consideration, we affirm the judgment of the Appeals Board and adopt its opinion as set forth in the attached Appendix.

Workers Compensation Panel 05/16/19
Sara Elizabeth Arnold v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00809-CCA-R3-PC

In 2017, the Petitioner, Sara Elizabeth Arnold, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in exchange for an agreed eight-year sentence and the dismissal of an attempted first degree murder charge she also faced. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that her guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered because she was mentally incompetent and her trial counsel was ineffective for failing to have her mental condition evaluated. The post-conviction court denied the petition, finding that she had undergone two mental evaluations that concluded she was competent prior to entering her plea. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the mental evaluations conducted on her were not proper assessments of her mental state and asks this court to obtain a copy of her institutional record. After review, we reverse the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/19
State of Tennessee v. John Steven Hernandez
M2016-02511-CCA-R3-CD

In 2013, a Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, John Steven Hernandez, of first degree premeditated murder for a killing that occurred in 1993, for which the trial court imposed a sentence of life in prison. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it: (1) did not dismiss the charge against him based on pre-indictment delay; (2) did not dismiss the charge against him based on post-indictment delay; (3) denied his motion to suppress evidence; (4) made several erroneous evidentiary rulings; and that (5) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; and that (6) the Defendant is entitled to a new trial based upon the cumulative effect of the errors. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/19
State of Tennessee v. Ronnie Joe Edwards, Jr.
W2018-00805-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Ronnie Joe Edwards, Jr., appeals the order of the trial court revoking his probation and ordering him to serve his original five-year sentence in confinement. Upon review of the record, we conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding the defendant violated the terms of his probation and the imposed sentence is proper. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/19
Christopher Danta Logan v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01176-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Christopher Danta Logan, appeals the Tipton County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his pro se petition for
post-conviction relief. The Petitioner argues that he timely filed his petition alleging he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. The State agrees that the Petitioner timely filed his petition. After a review of the record and applicable law, we conclude that the
post-conviction court committed reversible error; therefore, we reverse the post-conviction court’s summary dismissal of the petition and remand for a hearing regarding the timeliness of the Petitioner’s post-conviction petition.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/19
State of Tennessee v. Thomas Bethel Hendrix
M2017-00386-CCA-R3-CD

A Williamson County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Thomas Bethel Hendrix, of two counts of aggravated child abuse and one count of child abuse, and the trial court imposed a total effective sentence of twenty-five years in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by admitting certain statements he made to law enforcement and that the trial court erred by failing to merge his convictions into a single conviction of aggravated child abuse. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but conclude that the Appellant’s convictions must be merged. Accordingly, the case is remanded to the trial court for merger of the convictions into a single conviction of aggravated child abuse. We note that merger of the convictions does not affect the Appellant’s twenty-five-year sentence because the trial court ordered that he serve the sentences concurrently.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/19
Andrea Renea Hopwood v. Corey Daniel Hopwood
M2018-00446-COA-R3-CV

This is another appeal arising from the divorce of Corey Daniel Hopwood (“Father”) and Andrea Renea Hopwood (“Mother”). In a previous opinion, we remanded for a new determination concerning the duration and amount of an award to Mother of rehabilitative alimony and the calculation of an award to Mother of attorney’s fees attributable only to child custody and child support issues. The Chancery Court for Williamson County (“the Remand Court”) addressed these two issues on remand. Father appeals to this Court, arguing in large part that he simply cannot afford to pay what the Remand Court ordered him to pay. Discerning no abuse of discretion, we affirm the Remand Court’s rulings with respect to rehabilitative alimony and attorney’s fees attributable to child support and child custody. However, we modify the Remand Court’s judgment to reduce the amount of life insurance Father is required to carry to secure his alimony obligation in light of the reduction of his alimony obligation. We further modify the Remand Court’s judgment to eliminate $750 in attorney’s fees assessed against Father for filing an improperly-styled motion when he was acting pro se. The judgment of the Remand Court is affirmed as modified.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 05/14/19
Shirley Keen v. Ingles Markets, Inc.
E2018-00306-SC-R3-WC

In 1997, an employee sustained a workers’ compensation injury. In 1999, the chancery court approved a settlement of the claim, which in part required the employer to pay for reasonable and necessary future medical treatment. In 2016, the employer declined to provide certain treatment based on the results of a utilization review under Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-124. The chancery court granted the employee’s motion to compel the medical treatment and held in abeyance her request for attorney fees under Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-204(b)(2). The employee filed a second motion to compel because of a dispute about whether the first order to compel required the employer to provide the employee with a particular medication. The chancery court granted the second motion to compel and awarded the employee attorney fees, but in a lesser amount than the employee had requested. Both parties appealed. The employee contends that the chancery court erred in awarding attorney fees by failing to make findings based on the factors in Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 8, Rule of Professional Conduct 1.5(a) (RPC 1.5(a)). The employer contends the chancery court erred by granting the second motion to compel treatment. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We vacate the chancery court’s award of attorney fees and remand for a determination of attorney fees in accordance with the factors set forth in RPC 1.5(a). We affirm the chancery court’s judgment granting the second motion to compel.

Campbell County Workers Compensation Panel 05/14/19
State of Tennessee v. Jonathan Alexander
W2018-00442-CCA-R3-CD

A Hardin County jury convicted the defendant of two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm (counts 1 and 2), possession of a Schedule II controlled substance with intent to sell or deliver (count 3), possession of unlawful drug paraphernalia (count 4), and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony (count 5). On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions in counts 3 and 5 and asserts the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on the inference of casual exchange pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-419. Upon our review of the record, we conclude sufficient evidence exists to support the defendant’s convictions and the defendant failed to preserve the jury instruction issue for appeal. In reviewing the sentencing determinations of the trial court, however, we note several errors in the completion of the judgment forms for counts 1, 2, 3, and 4. Specifically, there are clerical errors in the felony classifications as marked in counts 1, 2, and 3 (in count 1, the trial court incorrectly classified the conviction as a Class C felony rather than a Class B felony; in count 2, the trial court incorrectly classified the conviction as a Class E felony rather than a Class C felony; and in count 3, the trial court incorrectly classified the conviction as a Class C felony rather than a Class B felony). Additionally, in merging the defendant’s convictions in counts 1 and 2, the trial court failed to impose a sentence for the merged conviction of count 2. Finally, in count 4, the trial court incorrectly sentenced the defendant for a misdemeanor conviction rather than the felony for which he was found guilty, warranting a new sentencing hearing on the same. Consequently, we remand the case to the trial court for sentencing as to counts 2 and 4 and the entry of corrected and completed judgment forms as to counts 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Hardin County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/19
Dexter Sappington v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01516-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Dexter Sappington, Jr., appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel prior to and during his guilty plea hearing. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/19
Brice Cook v. State of Tennessee
W2018-00237-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Brice Cook, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/19
Brice Cook v. State of Tennessee - Dissenting
W2018-00237-CCA-R3-PC

I respectfully disagree with the majority’s conclusion that the Petitioner is not entitled to relief based upon his claim of bias by the post-conviction judge. Rather, I conclude that the post-conviction judge’s comments at the conclusion of the hearing were so egregious that the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned and, thus, warranted recusal. See Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 10, R.J.C. 2.11(A) (“A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned….”). Because the judge presided over the proceedings when disqualified from doing so, I would reverse the post-conviction court’s order denying the Petitioner post-conviction relief and remand for a new hearing with a different judge.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/19
Reginald Tyrone Donnell v. Russell Washburn, Warden
M2018-00706-CCA-R3-HC

The Petitioner, Reginald Tyrone Donnell, filed a petition for habeas corpus relief from his two convictions of second degree murder, contending that the indictment charging him was void and that a fatal variance existed between the indictment and the proof adduced at trial. The habeas corpus court summarily dismissed the petition for failure to comply with the procedural requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-21-107, and the Petitioner appeals. Upon review, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s summary dismissal of the petition.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/19